Foundation for Language-Learning Disabilities
28 November 2005 at 12:11 pm
Andrew Dean Fildes did not speak his first words until he was three and a half years old, despite having normal hearing. It took many more years to be diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome and now he’s helping thousands of young children in Victoria with language and learning difficulties.
As a child Andrew couldn’t walk past a telephone pole without touching it, or go to a friend’s house without re-arranging every book on a book-shelf, showing what were thought to be early signs of autism.
Andrew was eventually diagnosed with a language-learning disability caused by damage to one hemisphere of the brain. It means he has difficulty reading, writing and spelling, but despite this, now manages to work as an international freight broker.
With strong family support he was able to overcome his personal difficulties and create the Andrew Dean Fildes (ADF) Foundation for Language-Learning Disabilities (LLD) when he was just 21 years old in 1996 to help children not only read, write and spell but also develop confidence and resilience.
This month he was awarded a Tattersalls prize for enterprise and achievement.
ADF Foundation advisor and board member, speech pathologist, Dr. Carl Parsons who started one of the first post graduate speech pathology courses in Australia says it is estimated 10% of the Australian population has a LLD which affects self-esteem, confidence, learning potential, employment options and lifetime opportunities.
Children with LLD have extreme difficulty in making themselves understood, often being labelled as ‘slow’. Not being able to read means children lose confidence and leaving school often follows.
Primary schools across Victoria are invited to select children who are suspected of having a LLD to participate in an intensive week long program (free of charge) where treatment is provided by LaTrobe, Charles Sturt and Melbourne University students enrolled in Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Special Education overseen by Dr. Carl Parsons and other qualified, professional staff.
Children receive up to 30 hours of intensive training, equivalent to an entire year of therapy! Year 3, Year 4 and Master students access valuable clinical and practical experience, unavailable to them in many cases prior to the ADF program.
The ADF Foundation also provides screening to prep students (again, at no cost to families) to identify those who may be at risk. Any student who fails a component is referred on for in-depth assessment. Over 800 prep students were screened by the ADF Foundation from across Victoria in 2005.
Andrew Fildes dream is to ensure every child in Australia gets an opportunity to overcome his/her problem. He wants their families and teachers to understand what needs to be done to overcome Language-Learning Disabilities.
Andrew says the dream is now a reality but it won’t be complete until all of Australia can access our programs.
The ADF Foundation has enriched more than 3,600 lives and raised more than $250,000 to fully fund programs to date with Andrew having donated $30,000 personally.
The Tattersall’s Monthly Award for Enterprise and Achievement consists of what is usually a two-part donation. $15,000 goes toward the non-profit beneficiary of choice, in this case the ADF Foundation. Andrew has decided to also donate his personal award of $5,000 bringing the entire donation from Tattersall’s to $20,000.
Tattersall’s will celebrate the 26th Annual Awards for Enterprise and Achievement in July 2006 where an overall winner will be chosen from the twelve monthly winners and receive a further $75,000 for their chosen beneficiary and an additional personal prize of $15,000.
Tattersall’s Managing Director/CEO, Duncan Fischer says the Tattersall’s Award for Enterprise and Achievement is one of Tattersall’s most significant community initiated programs that honours those prepared to ‘have a go’ whether it be overcoming physical disabilities, heroic deeds or helping someone in need.
Fischer says Andrew Fildes is a great example of what these Awards represent, having demonstrated persistence and determination above the norm to not only overcome his personal difficulties but to ensure every opportunity for the next generation of children with language-learning disabilities.
Andrew says he was inspired by the 1994 movie “Rudy”, portraying the real life story of a man called Rudy Ruettiger who also had a language-learning disability but never gave up on his dream to play gridiron for the US University Notre Dame.
He met Rudy on January 21, 1997 (Andrew recalls dates readily) and he became a patron of the ADF Foundation as did Sean Astin ( of ‘Lord of the Rings’ fame) who portrayed Rudy in the film. Proceeds from Australian book sales of Rudy’s book ‘Rudy and Friends’ in which Andrew features are donated to the ADF Foundation.